Version Reviewed: PlayStation 3
Also On: Xbox 360 and PC
Published by: Ubisoft
Developed by: Ubisoft Montreal
Number of Players: 1
Release Date US: December 2, 2008
Release Date Europe: December 4, 2008
Release Date Australia: December 4, 2008
MSRP: $59.99 (Limited Edition $59.99; While Supplies Last)
ESRB Rating: T for Teen
ESRB Content Descriptors: Alcohol Reference, Mild Language, Mild Suggestive Themes, Violence
Breathe Me by Sia (Song used in the TGS 2008 Trailer)
The Prince of Persia (henceforth PoP) makes it's next-gen debut with a New world, a New Prince, a New Maiden, and a New art style. Will this new take on an old franchise be a hit or a flop? Find out in this review.
This game tells us the story of an unnamed prince who isn't very prince-like. He is back from robbing a tomb with a mule full of enough Gold to let him live a life of luxury for years. But in a desert storm, he losses his mule and finds himself stranded. He meets a young woman named Elika, who is being chased by some soldiers. Being the ladies man he is, he steps up to help her and fends off the attackers. Elika is headed to a Temple to protect a Tree that imprisons a God of Darkness called Ahriman and the Prince decides to escort her. In there they find a king willing to stop them. That king is none other than Elika's father (making her a princess). The Prince beats the king, but the king manages to destroy the tree and the world falls to corruption. Elika reveals she is a descendant of the Ahuras, a tribe of people who serve the God of Light called Ohrmaz. The Prince and Elika embark on an adventure to purify the land with build and interesting relationship between them.
The story is great. It is very emotional, but to some, the Prince may come off as a big jerk, especially against Elika. The ending is non-traditional and bound to many interpretations. This is no fairy-tale ending.
PoP's gameplay is very simple. At it's core, it is Locate Corrupted area > Find Boss > Defeat Boss > Cleanse Area, wash and repeat. While it may seem repetitive to some, each area is unique and provides a different experience.
PoP runs on an adaptation of the Assassin's Creed engine, which was controlled by giving each important body extension (head, main hand, off hand, and legs) a button. Depending on the situation, the button press created a different reaction. This simple yet beautiful design remains in PoP. Each button is assigned a "body" section, but instead of the head, it is magic (aka Elika), so it ends up Triangle = Elika, main hand (sword) = Square, off hand (Gauntlet) = Circle, and legs (Acrobatic) = X. Each button reacts depending on the situation, so in exploration, Acrobatics maybe scaling and jumping, while in Combat, it may be a roll or dodge. R2 is Block in combat, while in exploration it lets you drop your grip on a surface you scale downward. L2 lets you talk with Elika. Every now and then an icon with Elika's face will popup, meaning she has something to say. This lets you in on some interesting tidbits on the area and offers character development.
Exploring in the game is the namesake. You basically got a semi-open sandbox to explore (semi because some areas require Elika to have a certain power). The Prince has all his moves open since the start. And Elika has most of hers (only 4 to be opened) since the beginning. You can scale walls, jump in the air (and extend your jump with Elika), walks on walls, etc. The open-ness may seem confusing, but you can target an area on your map, and Elika can guide you with her magic, making it hard to get lost. As you explore a corrupted area, some spaces may be covered with pure corruption, preventing access. But upon healing that area, those patches of corruption are gone, letting you fully explore it further. As if that wasn't enough incentive, each healed area brings with it collectible "Light Seeds" which are used to unlock Elika's 4 hidden powers. This makes back tracking a necessity, but with all the changes to the environment, and the new spaces to explore, it makes it worthwhile. Lastly, as all past PoP games, this game has some puzzles to do. While not that hard, it adds to variety.
Combat is also fairly simple. You can link attacks to form combos. There is a combo tree deep enough opens the door for some big combos if you can pull them off. Most branches of the tree link to at least another so a 10+ combo isn?t unheard of. Blocking can also be very useful. If you time your block correctly, it will be a parry instead, letting the enemy open for attack. You only fight one enemy at a time. On some occasions, environments can be used in combat (i.e. pushing your enemy against a column or wall) but it goes both ways, so you can be affected also. Using your environment can lead to Quick Time Events (QTE) ranging from button smashing to timed button presses. Opponents will time to time get an "Influence of Ahriman". Depending on the influence, only sword, magic, or gauntlet attacks (The enemy will glow differently and the weapon or Elika will glow to give you a cue) will work. This adds a bit of difficulty, but not much.
One aspect I should mention is you can't die. Yep, if you fall to a pit or "die" in battle, Elika makes you come back and, if you're in battle, the enemy replenishes a bit of health. Some consider this a drawback, but really, all it does it shorten the game over screen and lets you get back to the action with no loading, etc. It makes it more fluid, plus, as a story, it wouldn't make sense for the hero to die now would it? It makes for better story telling in my opinion.
All in all, PoP is a great game, with great systems, but just too easy. Still, the game is about the experience and not the challenge, and in that regard, it truly delivers.
This is PoP's biggest achievement. The shortest way to describe PoP is "a watercolor painting in motion". The game runs on a cel-shaded style. The pastel color palette with the magical glows from Elika makes this a feast for your eyes. The character models are beautiful. When you reach a corrupted area, the gray tones give it a gloomy feeling. But when you heal it, oh, you're in for a big eye popping experience. The Healed areas look lively, with the grass, butterflies, and lighting tone change. Just the visual change is reward enough for wanting to cleanse an area. On the animation side, while exploring, the Prince and Elika move gracefully without a hitch. If you time you moves correctly, it is even more impressive, as the transition from action to action is seamless. But words can't really describe the artistic value of the visuals, I'll let pictures speak for themselves (you can also see the video at the top):
In combat, PoP is just as stunning. The clashing of blades, the Magic from Elika, and the Corrupted's Darkness really are well done. Like in exploration, the animations flow very naturally. From a sword attack to a grab, to a magic attack, each flows like a well crafted symphony. Again, I'll let pictures speak (you can also see the video at the top):
The music in the game is incredible. It really sets the mood for the game. The voice acting is good too. Elika's and the Enemies' voice fit them well but the Prince acts like a jerk too much and seems forced. Since the character was aimed at that, it is no biggie though.
Final Judgment: Prince of Persia is a great game. It is like seeing a watercolor painting come to life. While it provides little challenge, I think the game's intention isn't the difficulty of the ride, it is the ride itself. It is an experience I think every gamer should go through.
+ One of the best looking games of the year. And it is probably setting the standard in Cel-shaded style visuals.
+ Fluid animations
+ Ease of controls and a somewhat deep combo tree.
- No much of a challenge. The game is easy and provides infinite continues (Elika's save).
- The Collecting aspect may seem like a chore.
- Can get repetitive to some people (not in my personal case).